As I promised last week, I have details to share about my interview with former Park Avenue United Methodist Church youth group leader, Art Erickson. Prince participated in the church’s summer programs from sixth to ninth grade.
Erickson was very, very kind and patient with me. I enjoyed speaking with him and even transcribing the interivew afterward!
Other writers have interviewed Erickson, but I contacted him because I want to rely on my own research as much as I can. I also wanted Erickson to elaborate on some things I’d read.
Erickson provided more details about Prince’s involvement in the church. We talked about the messages that Prince would have heard in sermons from Dr. Hinerman, the pastor at the time. Erickson also shared his input on Prince’s early music, and those anguished chats with God onstage during the “Purple Rain” tour.
Of course I asked Erickson the same question I asked Gayle Chapman and Howard Bloom: “Are you surprised that Prince is a Jehovah’s Witness now?” The responses have been so intriguing. Chapman said, “No,” and Bloom said, “Yes.” Erickson gave the same answer as Chapman.
My chat with Erickson really showed me that I need to learn more about the Jehovah’s Wintess doctrine. We discussed it a little bit, and I’m not sure I comprehend it as well as I thought I did. I’ll be heading back to the library soon…
As for other sources, Erickson recommends Jimmy Jam, of course. I told him that I wanted to speak with Keith Johnson, the pastor who presided over Prince’s wedding to Mayte, and Keith’s brother Kirk, who was the best man. Erickson said that Kirk, who was a member of Prince’s New Power Generation band, would be the “key person,” because he knew Prince better (I wrote Keith a letter a couple weeks ago, but I haven’t tried Kirk just yet).
Erickson gave me his blessing to mention that I spoke with him, and to follow up with him, if needed. Also, like many other people who knew Prince in the early years, he wishes he could chat with him today. In fact, a few years ago, Erickson wanted Prince to compose music for a movie that was filming in Minneapolis, but he couldn’t reach him.
“You can keep in touch with me,” he said, “and you can put on the Intenet that you talked to Art Erickson, and he’d love to talk to Prince again.”
Prince, did you get that? They still love you.